This week brings the return of CBS’s Thursday night lineup; a new comedy on USA; a biopic about the poet Dylan Thomas; a documentary about the great James Brown; and a miniseries based on an acclaimed novel. And of course there are some decent horror movie choices for Halloween.
Monday, October 27
Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown (9-11 pm, HBO)
Brown stands as one of the most electrifying performers in the history of popular music (trust me on this; I had the great pleasure of seeing him live during a mid-1980s comeback tour, but if you need convincing, here’s exhibit A). Brown’s career and influence get a much-deserved documentary treatment, featuring interviews with former band members and other musicians and performers including Mick Jagger, who produced this film.
Also tonight: the premiere of the inscrutable, animated Mike Tyson Mysteries (10:30-10:45 pm, Adult Swim).
Tuesday, October 28
Benched (10:31-11:02 pm, USA)
This new comedy has great promise with terrific talent both in front of and behind the cameras. Actress Michaela Watkins is a writer and executive producer, and John Enbom (Party Down) is showrunner. The initial setup of the story is familiar: high-powered attorney Nina (Eliza Coupe of Happy Endings and Scrubs) has a meltdown and loses her job, and ends up working as a public defender. Other cast members as Nina’s new coworkers include Jay Harrington (from the criminally underwatched Better Off Ted), Maria Bamford, and Oscar Nunez. (The first episode is available to watch online now.)
Wednesday, October 29
A Poet in New York (8-9:30 pm, BBC America)
To some, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas embodied the “live fast, die young” ethos, succumbing to his hard-drinking lifestyle and general poor health in 1953 at 39. But his life was much more complex, and this original movie starring Tom Hollander attempts to convey some of Thomas’s depth and talent.
Thursday, October 30
CBS Shows (8-11 pm)
CBS’s seven weeks of Thursday NFL games have unsurprisingly delivered solid ratings (and huge increases compared to last year, when the games aired only on the NFL Network), so don’t be surprised to see a similar schedule in future seasons. Meanwhile CBS’s regular Thursday lineup returns tonight: The Big Bang Theory (8 pm); Mom (moving over from Mondays, 8:30); Two and a Half Men (entering its final season, 9); and Elementary (10). The one new show, at 9:30, is The McCarthys, a mediocre multi-camera/laugh-track sitcom about a big, loud, sports-obsessed Southie family—is it 2014 or 1994?
Friday, October 31
Scary Movies (Duh)
A lot of the movies being shown tonight are inferior remakes (examples: the 2005 version of The Amityville Horror on MTV; the 2006 version of The Omen on Cinemax; Rob Zombie’s 2007 take on Halloween on IFC). My advice: stick to the tried and true (The Shining, 7:30-10 pm on Cinemax; Night of the Living Dead, 8-10 pm on Turner Classic Movies). As the saying goes, it’s a classic for a reason.
Saturday, November 1
Austin City Limits (9-10 pm, PBS)
It seems entirely appropriate that a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performance is airing right between Halloween and the Day of the Dead.
Sunday, November 2
Olive Kitteridge (9-11 pm, HBO)
Four-hour miniseries adaptation of a Pulitzer-winning novel by Elizabeth Strout, directed by Lisa Cholodenko and starring Frances McDormand as a teacher in a small town in Maine. (The conclusion airs Monday, also 9-11 pm.)
BoJack Horseman (2014)
I mentioned this show in the column when it premiered on Netflix back in August. What seemed initially like just a silly, lightweight animated goof about a fantasy version of Hollywood where humans and anthropomorphized animals coexisted turned out to be a much deeper, sad, and very funny meditation on fame, depression, friendship, and more, featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris, and Paul F. Tompkins. (12 episodes, with more coming some time next year)
(Note: this information is accurate as of publication time, but programming is subject to change at the discretion of channels and networks. All times listed are Eastern time.)